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What Happens if You Fail a Field Sobriety Test, and What Happens if You Refuse

Web Admin - Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Illinois breathalyzer fail, Barrington DUI lawyerThe State of Illinois considers drunk driving to be a serious crime, and imposes high penalties for people found guilty of it. Often, drunk drivers are caught during a traffic stop after taking a breathalyzer test or failing a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are a battery of heuristic, qualitative examinations, like requiring the driver to stand on one foot for a certain period of time or to walk heel to toe.

However, drivers are not required to take these field sobriety tests because they qualify as a search under the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, these sorts of tests are not covered by Illinois' implied consent law. The implied consent law states that operating a motor vehicle is a privilege, not a right, and that by driving, a person consents to have his or her breath, blood, or urine tested for alcohol. This means that, while there are penalties for refusing one of those tests, those penalties do not apply to field sobriety tests. There is one exception to this rule, however. If a person has been issued a registry card for the state's new medical marijuana program, then the implied consent law does extend to field sobriety tests.

Penalties for Failure

Courts often view failing a field sobriety test as evidence that a person was driving under the influence. This evidence can often be strengthened by the police taking a chemical test. If either test proves to the court's satisfaction that the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded 0.08 percent, then that person triggers the DUI penalties in Illinois. A first offense comes with a maximum fine of $2,500 along with a potential jail sentence of up to one year. Additionally, a first offender's license may be suspended for a minimum of six months.

These penalties increase for repeat offenders, with the license suspension going up to a five-year minimum for a second offense. A third DUI triggers a 10-year suspension and a prison sentence of between three and seven years. Additionally, every DUI offense comes with the penalty of having an ignition interlock device installed in the offender's car, which functions as a breathalyzer test to turn the car on.

Penalties for Refusal

Refusing to take the field sobriety tests does not trigger any penalties, unless the driver has been issued a medical marijuana registry card. However, there are penalties for refusing to take a chemical test. These penalties start at a one-year summary suspension of a person's driver's license. Additionally, if a person has previously had a suspension or a DUI conviction in the past year, then the penalty increases up to a three-year suspension.

DUI charges are a serious sanction in Illinois that can have long-lasting consequences. If you have recently been charged, seek help from an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney. Our firm defends the rights of clients across the northwest suburbs, including in Barrington, Rolling Meadows, and Des Plaines.

About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, civil litigation, real estate law, and corporate law. Colin is an active member of the Board of Governors of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Creditors Bar Association. He is currently Vice President of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and is a Commissioner for the Village of Arlington Heights. Colin has a 10.0 Attorney rating on Avvo, and was named one of the 2014 “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association.


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